Opera Review: Tosca Delivers Verve and “Verismo” to Detroit (Thanks, Cincinnati!)

Alexia Voulgaridou plays Floria Tosca in Tosca to a tee. (Photo: Detroit Opera House)

He had sung Tosca and it had been wonderful.”

~~~Ernest Hemingway from A Farewell to Arms

In the course of my somewhat wizened 56 years, I’ve worked at the USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL facilities across America from coast-to-coast; but last night, in Detroit, at the Opera House, Tosca delivered verve like a lover of mothers, shall we say…. And many thanks to the Cincinnati Opera for co-producing the production! Bravo!

Alexia Voulgaridou’s opening night performance killed it. Like the Greek goddess Aphrodite, rebranded by Rome as moonless Venus, Alexia’s Floria Tosca owns Love with her riveting arias on the subject. She literally “sings to the stars”  literally (one presumes Betelgeuse and Rigel of Orion, and Vega and Sirius prominently amongst the bunch). So confident she is of the Power of Love, Tosca sings of it “redeeming the world.” (Paraphrasing.)

The opera was first performed in Rome in 1900. Giacomo Puccini improved upon the novel so much that Tosca is literally known only as an opera in most circles and ovals. And, I almost hate to say it – rightly so. If Love is to redeem the world, it’d better have the verve infused into it by Floria Tosca. Half-ass love can go suck a pickle.

Hemingway mentions Tosca in his gem-of-a-novel set in Italy during WWI. A Farewell to Arms is one Hell of a love story – like Tosca. It seems that a lot of love stories are hellish. I know my love life has resembled Pluto’s sphere for the lion’s share of my life. But Love has its ups, as well as its downs; and, like a roller-coaster at Cedar Point, it beats a lukewarm life of merely being attached to one of the many teats of the Matrix.

Floria Tosca takes the bull by the horns. She ain’t playing to the crowd like a matador. She is a real, well, ahem, a real woman.

Her partner in crime, the artist Mario Cavaradossi (played admirably by Andrea Carè) adeptly holds up his end, loving Floria to his untimely end. His arias are powerful and bold.

But it was Ms. Voulgaridou’s transcendent arias that made this night in Detroit one for the ages.

As I walked out to the lobby for a cola after Act I, I asked an elderly man looking straight at me, still in his seat, “That was pretty good, huh?” He remained frozen; but the man walking to the lobby directly ahead of me offendly half-turned his head to me, exposing his oblique profile, “Pretty good? It doesn’t get much better than that!” I expressed my agreement, and he added confessionally that Tosca was one of only four operas he followed religiously because of its mind-blowing musicality. Then he froze, too, like the sphinx; and I was left to ponder what made up the rest of his Fabulous Foursome.

At any rate, in my book, I must say, of all the operas I’ve seen, Tosca takes the golden cake topped with dark chocolate frosting – like the luminous eyes of Floria Tosca herself. If the rest of us can muster half the love she put out into the Universe for her Mario, perhaps the world really can be redeemed at this seemingly late hour, literally.

“Tosca” runs from April 7 – 15 at the Detroit Opera House. Running time: 1 hr 50 min + two 25-min intermissions. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.michiganopera.org/opera/tosca/

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. How can you POSSIBLY review the opening night performance of the MOT Tosca and not mention Greer Grimsley’s Scarpia, or the wonderful Sacristan, Dale Travis, LET ALONE the magnificent conducting of the MOT orchestra by Maestro Valerio Galli, an Italian conductor who UNDERSTANDS Puccini, the MOT chorus, etc. Why bother to be so inept?! How irritating.

    • You just saw how. I choose to focus on Love, something Scarpia seemed incapable of; but you are right, Mr. Grimsley played him very well and sung very powerfully. And the orchestra rendered Puccini perfectly. Are you always this cranky?

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